Resource Concepts, Inc.
Celebrating 31 Years 1978-2009
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Cherry Creek is located in northern White Pine County along State Route 489, where White Pine County Roads 21 and 25 intersect (see Figure 5-1). State Route 489 intersects with US Highway 93 approximately 50 miles north of Ely, Nevada. Cherry Creek is situated in the lower reach of the canyon where Cherry Creek flows into Steptoe Valley. The risk/hazard assessment resulted in classifying Cherry Creek in the High Hazard Category (62 points). A summary of factors that contributed to the hazard rating is included in Table 5-3. Primary factors that determined the hazard rating for Cherry Creek were inadequate defensible space and building construction, potential for hazardous fire behavior related to topography and dense fuels, limited water sources within the community for fire suppression, and limited firefighting capabilities.
The wildland-urban interface area around Cherry Creek can best be characterized as intermixed. There is no clear line of demarcation between wildland fuels and the residential structures in the community. Eight of the observed residences were on lots of less than one acre, twenty-three were on parcels of one to ten acres, and three parcels were greater than ten acres in size.
About three-quarters of the homes in the interface are built with non-combustible or ignition resistant siding such as medium density fiberboard. Ninety-four percent of the homes had roofs of non-combustible material such as tile, metal, or composition. About one-third of the homes observed have unenclosed balconies, porches, decks, or other architectural features. Unenclosed features on homes can create drafty areas where sparks and embers can be trapped, smolder, ignite, and rapidly spread fire to the house.
Approximately forty percent of the homes surveyed in Cherry Creek have landscaping that meets defensible space guidelines to protect the home from damage or loss during a wildfire.
Cherry Creek is protected by the Steptoe/Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Department. At the time that interviews were conducted for this report, the VFD reported having twelve volunteer members. Additional resources are available from the BLM Ely Field Office, the NDF Ely Conservation Camp, and the Great Basin National Park Fire Department as described in Section 4.1.1. Table 5-1 summarizes cooperating partners and equipment available to respond to wildland fires in the Cherry Creek area.
|Type of Equipment||Amount of Equipment||Resource Location|
|Type 3 Engine
Type 6 Engine
Water Tender (2000 gallon)
|Steptoe/Cherry Creek VFD|
|Source: Chief John Evans, Steptoe/Cherry Creek VFD.|
Water available for fire suppression in Cherry Creek includes:
There are no hydrants or water storage tanks in Cherry Creek. There is one pond located on the Salvi Ranch south of Cherry Creek that could be used seasonally as a helicopter dip site with landowner permission.
All Steptoe/Cherry Creek VFD firefighters receive training to meet Nevada Division of Forestry Basic Wildland Firefighter standards. The Steptoe/Cherry Creek VFD does not utilize the Red Card system. Red Card certification is part of a fire qualifications management system used by many state and all federal wildland fire management agencies. This certification indicates that an individual is qualified to fight wildland fires.
The Steptoe/Cherry Creek VFD responded to five calls in 2003; four wildland/brush fire calls and one structure fire.
White Pine County has an active Local Emergency Planning Committee and has adopted an emergency plan that includes a hazardous materials response plan. Cherry Creek is included in these County plans. The County also has an all-risk disaster response plan that is updated annually.
Vegetation, dead and down fuels, and topographic features contribute to the potential fire hazard around wildland-urban interface communities. The fuel hazards were mapped for Cherry Creek and fuel hazard photos were taken to provide additional information for the vegetation type descriptions (see Figures 5-2 and 5-3).
The vegetative fuel loading in the Cherry Creek interface area is generally light on the east side of the community and the lower reach of the Cherry Creek drainage. In these areas, the moderate to high hazard fuel load was estimated at two to three tons per acre. Fuels consist of a sagebrush and rabbitbrush shrub layer with some halogeton and cheatgrass as the ground fuels. In the west portion of the community (in the drainage), vegetative fuels consist of a tree layer of pinyon-juniper, a shrub layer of sagebrush and rabbitbrush, and an understory cheatgrass component. Fuel loading in this area was estimated at eight to fifteen tons per acre and considered an extreme fuel hazard. On the east of the community the terrain is fairly flat, but toward the west side of the community slopes range between eight and twenty percent.
The Bureau of Land Management Ely Field Office is in the process of planning a fuel reduction treatment on the west side of the Cherry Creek community (Figure 5-4). Between sixty and eighty percent of the 13,388-acre project area is planned for prescribed burning and mowing treatments. The mosaic mowing and seeding treatment is proposed for the areas where BLM lands are adjacent to Cherry Creek private lands. The prescribed burning treatment is proposed further west of the community, and is scheduled to begin in 2005 and be completed in 2006. Either aerial or drill seeding is also proposed for the prescribed burn areas where cheatgrass is prevalent and very few perennial grasses are present in the understory (Coombs, pers. comm.).
The worst-case scenario for Cherry Creek would be a lightning caused ignition west of the community that would be driven by high winds through the heavy pinyon-juniper fuels in the Cherry Creek drainage. In a high moisture year, high cheatgrass production would increase the risk of an ignition. Strong winds would rapidly spread fire into the shrub layer and eventually into the tree crowns and toward the adjacent homes. Given the long distances for agency resources to travel, the fire could exceed the capabilities of initial attack resources before help could arrive. The scenario would be worsened if mutual aid resources were unavailable due to fire activity in other areas or in the event of limited volunteer response.
Cherry Creek has a high ignition risk from dry lightning. There is a high potential for structure loss. In addition, there is extensive wildfire history in the area surrounding the community and a related history of lightning strikes. The primary ignition risk in Cherry Creek is lightning, although human caused ignitions can occur at any time.
The responsibility to keep a community fire safe falls not only on the local fire department, but also on residents, businesses, and local governments. Cherry Creek risk and hazard reduction recommendations focus primarily on maintaining defensible space, fire suppression training, and public education efforts.
Defensible space treatments are an essential first line of defense for residential structures. Significantly reducing or removing vegetation within a prescribed distance from structures (30 feet to 200 feet depending upon slope and vegetative fuel type) reduces fire intensity and improves firefighter and homeowner chances for successfully defending a structure against an oncoming wildfire.
Fuel reduction treatments are applied on a larger scale than defensible space treatments. By permanently changing the fuel structure over large blocks of land to one of lower volume or reduced flammability (a fuel reduction treatment), the expected result in the event of a catastrophic wildfire would be one of reduced risk for uncontrolled spread through the treatment area. Reducing vegetation along roadways and driveways could reduce the likelihood of wildfire spreading across roads and improve firefighter access and safety for protecting homes.
Adequate training, equipment, and water drafting supplies are critical to all firefighters, whether they are first responders, volunteer fire department personnel, or agency personnel. These matters are also of special importance to all communities, especially those located in remote portions of the county. The following recommendations are related to actions the county and fire departments can take to increase the quality of fire suppression response in their community.
Many of the most effective activities aimed at reducing the threat of wildfire for the Cherry Creek community require that individual property owners coordinate with each other and with local fire authorities. Defensible space, for example, is more effective in small communities when applied uniformly throughout entire neighborhoods. Public education and awareness, neighbors helping neighbors, and proactive individuals setting examples for others to follow are just a few of the approaches that will be necessary to meet the fire safe goals in the community. Disposal of biomass generated from defensible space and fuel reduction treatments can sometimes be most efficiently handled through community programs.
|Involved Party||Recommended Treatment||Recommendation Description|
|Property Owners||Defensible Space Treatments||Remove, reduce, and replace vegetation around homes (see guidelines in Appendix E). Keep defensible space lean, clean, and green.
Mow and treat cheatgrass in areas around homes to deplete the seed bank. Reseed with species according to the seed mix in Appendix E.
|Fuel Reduction Treatments||Construct a 200-foot wide fuelbreak on the west side of the community.|
|Community Coordination||Assure addresses and street signs are clearly visible.
Form a local chapter of the Nevada Fire Safe Council.
|Utility Company||Fuel Reduction Treatments||Remove trees and thin shrubs beneath power lines and utility poles. Maintain a minimum of fifteen feet of clearance around power line transformers.|
|Steptoe/Cherry Creek VFD||Fire Suppression Resources||Provide structure fire training and obtain NDF wildland firefighter training for all volunteers.
Meet with NDF and BLM annually to review the pre-attack plan for areas near Cherry Creek.
|Community Coordination||Distribute copies of the publication “Living With Fire” to all property owners.|
|White Pine County||Fuel Reduction Treatments||Create roadside clearances of 25 feet from both sides of roads.
Construct a 200-foot wide fuelbreak on the west side of the community.
|Fire Suppression Resources||Coordinate with NDF to upgrade equipment as necessary.
Install a 10,000-gallon water storage tank for water drafting purposes.
Cherry Creek Wildfire Hazard Rating Summary
Cherry Creek Fire History, Suppression Resources, and Proposed Mitigation Projects
Cherry Creek Fuel Hazard Classification
Photo Point 1. 4419015N, 679342E, 350°NW. The area west of Cherry Creek has pinyon-juniper trees with a shrub component of big sagebrush and rabbitbrush.The fuel load was estimated at eight to fifteen tons per acre and considered a high to extreme fuel hazard.
Photo Point 2. 4418489N, 680589E, 310°NW. Structures are scattered throughout wildland fuels. The vegetation east of Cherry Creek consists of big sagebrush and rabbitbrush, with halogeton and cheatgrass and was considered a high fuel hazard.
BLM Proposed Mitigation Projects for the Cherry Creek Wildland-Urban Interface